A new study published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that certain sensors on insulin pumps can significantly decrease hypoglycemic episodes in those with type 1 diabetes. The sensors in question detect when blood sugar falls below a certain level, then cuts off insulin delivery.
The study looked at 95 type 1 diabetes patients from late 2009 to the beginning of 2012, giving them either standard insulin pumps or insulin pumps with automated low-glucose sensors. Specifically, researchers chose type 1 diabetes patients with "impaired awareness" of hypoglycemia. These types of patients are seen as being more at-risk for hypoglycemic episodes, and around one-third of type 1 diabetes sufferers are estimated to have impaired awareness of hypoglycemia.
The study found that patients with the low-blood-sugar sensors with automatic insulin cut-offs had fewer severe and moderate hypoglycemia events than those with standard insulin pumps. The total number of hypoglycemic events in the group with the sensors fell from 175 in 6 months to only 35.
"These findings suggest that automated insulin suspension can reduce the incidence of hypoglycemic events in those most at risk, that is, those with impaired awareness of hypoglycemia," wrote the study's authors.
The study's authors are hoping that the study provides doctors with the evidence they need to recommend insulin pumps with low-glucose sensors. In particular, such sensors could, through automation, reduce the incidence of hypoglycemic diabetic shock for type 1 diabetes patients who have trouble managing their blood sugar.
"These data can now be used to evaluate the health economic benefits of this therapy and also can be used by clinicians, payers, and regulatory authorities to help make this therapy and technology more widely available to patients who struggle daily with hypoglycemia," said Dr. Pratik Choudhary, a diabetes lecturer at King's College London and the author of an editorial accompanying the new study in today's JAMA.
(Image courtesy the Washington Endocrine Clinic)